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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Campus

Students plan walkout, demand reinstatement of DEI


People protesting

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

In response to the University’s urgent closure of its diversity and inclusion offices, students have begun to organize a walkout in a push for answers.

Prior to the Oct. 26 walkout, Young Democratic Socialists of America president Harrison Martin and UH GLOBAL president Kaitie Tolman joined forces and held a meeting to discuss their demands and how students can help.

“This is an attempt to bring about one of the largest demonstrations of UH in history,” Martin said.

With the walkout happening towards the end of the month, students are preparing by delivering a petition to UH President Renu Khator stating their intent to walk out if their demands are not met.

“This is the nuclear option,” Martin said. “This will be one of the biggest demonstrations UH has ever seen. And I’m hoping that through a mass volunteer base, through promotions through faculty and students and labor organizations on campus all being on our side, that we can get this done.”

Students participating in the walkout are asking for the University to bring back diversity, equity and inclusion programs, increase professor and student pay, and to end the class shortage.

Aware that other demands take time and money to implement, Martin and other students walking out are asking for the DEI programs as a quick fix.

“They don’t have to do anything besides just give us the resources of the program that they canceled, so I think that’s an easy victory and that’s something that we could see in the near term,” Martin said.

Prior efforts included a protest spearheaded by Tolman days before the LGBTQ Resource Center’s closure took effect due to Senate Bill 17, which prevents Texas-funded universities from maintaining diversity, equity and inclusion offices past the end of the year.

“They are scared of the pushback by the students and they have every right to be,” Tolman said. “The heart of this matter is UH could have done so much more to support its students and still be in compliance, but they didn’t.”

Low professor pay and class shortage go hand in hand, Martin said. An article from 2021 stated that an average salary per class is $3,000 for adjunct professors, without benefits and with pay remaining stagnant.

Due to such low pay, professors are unwilling to work. And without professors, available classes will continue to remain low, MArtin said.

“Us students (are not) able to graduate in a timely manner because UH is unwilling to pay our faculty an adequate rate,” Martin said.

In support, the Texas State Employees Union is working to push the state of Texas to give all staff members a $10k raise and potentially incorporate a $15 minimum wage for student workers.

“That’s not something that we can get the administration itself to issue but by working with organized labor who can lobby the Texas State Government, this is something that we can achieve, not soon, but we can build up the momentum to win those games in the future,” Martin said.

The walkout will be held at Lynn Eusan Park Oct. 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Interested students can volunteer and sign the pledge prior to the walkout.

“I’m hoping that we can continue the fight because this is a marathon, not a sprint,” Martin said.

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